What is the perfect male body shape?

What society perceives as the ideal male body type have constantly been changing over the years. Within the last decade, men generally have undergone not less than five changes in the perceived perfect male body shape. Which male body type is the best?

A man with toned abs

If you were to draw your ideal body shape, what would it look like? How did you develop the idea of that perfect body, and does it matter to you whether you attain that body type or not?

With the way fashion, lifestyle and taste in life change for women, you will think they are the only gender that experiences pressure when it comes to achieving the body shape perceived by society as “perfect”. Men deal with this pressure too.

Like the female gender, the males also have pictures of celebrities and "near-perfect" models plastered all over the internet and in printed magazines. 

The models used usually portray what society sees as an ideal body shape at that point in time. Men will always feel the need to live up to societal expectations regarding physical appearance- whether in the form of bigger muscles, abs or beards. 

A study carried out by some researchers from Bradley University says that” the trend is for men to desire bigger muscles and leaner muscles”. However, it also noted that “societal assumptions about the male body can be very misleading”. 

Just like women, how men perceive themselves will always be impacted by the images of celebrities, models and powerful men they see on television, movies and magazines. 

5 notable changes in the ideal male body type in the last decade

The perfect male body shape appears to be an inverted pyramid with broad shoulders and a small waist, while that of females is an hourglass with a waist-to-chest ratio of .74 and a waist-to-hip ratio of .87

However, this perceived ideal body shape has not been constant over the years; it has undergone several changes. Below are different notable changes in the perfect male body shape.

1. The skinny/slim male body type

As of 2010, a slim body was the range, not just for women but also for men. The Guardian reported that the number of men with anorexia (an eating disorder characterised by an intense fear of weight gain and the desire to lose weight) increased drastically from 10% in 1990 to 25% in 2010.

The article read, “now thin is the cultural mainstream. Thin is desirable. Men want it - men diet for it.” Since thin was the desirable male body type around that time, it was no surprise that more men developed eating disorders like anorexia that period.

It is noteworthy that 2010 was also when the top music artist Justin Bieber came on board, releasing the video for his hit track “Baby”. Justin Beiber perfectly fit the ideal male body type of ‘skinny’ that period. 

2. Muscle tone male body era

About 2 years later, men drifted from desiring a slim body to a well-toned body. During this period, the perfect male body according to females became a well-toned body. Skinny started going out of style. 

Celebrities that people looked up to then were the likes of The Rock and Jason Momoa. The preferred body type for both males and females became ‘tone and muscular’.

Not every man could achieve the Momoa look; however, most guys wanted the ripped body physique. 

With this, it is not surprising that gym memberships have increased drastically in the last decade. According to the International Health Racquet and Sportsclub Association, gym memberships has grown by 33.6% since 2008

3. The six-pack male body era

Photo by John Fornander on Unsplash

Around 2015, six-packs increasingly became a thing. The ideal male body type went beyond toning and gaining muscles on the biceps and thighs to focusing more on the abs. 

Celebs started getting into shape, with abs as the main component of the ideal body. One of the celebrities that spurred the move to abs body transformation is actor Chris Pratt. 

Pratt shared an Instagram photo of the progress he made in working out. The photo showed a full view of his abs, and that got a lot of attention online. Even the Men’s Health magazine wrote about his body transformation and how men can achieve it. 

Gradually, a toned body with well-defined abs became the perception of the perfect male body shape. 

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4. “Dad bod” and body positivity

Amidst the craze for muscle toning and abs, a new ideal male body type emerged around 2016. This male body shape was fairly easy to attain. It was called the ‘dad bod’.

The Men’s Health Magazine described the dad bod as “an average guy who doesn’t have lean or shredded physique” This means men that possessed this physique were neither lean nor ripped. They were just somewhere in between. 

The dad bod body gained more popularity after a Clemenson University sophomore Mackenzie Pearson wrote an essay about it- an essay that went viral and was featured on top websites like The Washington Post

Pearson defined the dad bod physique as “a nice balance between a beer gut and working out”. She said women love the dad bod. “In case you haven’t noticed lately, girls are all about that dad bod”, she wrote. 

Also, around the same period (2016/2017), the body positivity movement for men started to emerge. Men began talking about embracing and loving their bodies the way they are. 

The media and modelling agencies also started to diversify their models, including men of different body types. Men began learning to love and accept their body types. 

5. Bigger, bulky muscles

Recently, more men have started buying the idea of building bigger and bulkier muscles. This became the perfect male body shape. Fitness went beyond toning existing muscles to building big, fine muscles. 

Two perfect examples of celebrities with bulky muscles were Bradley Cooper and The Rock. Bradley Cooper gained an impressive weight (muscle mass) for his role in American Sniper. 

After that, he got featured in Men’s Health. This brought a rise in discussions about bulking phase in bodybuilding. To gain bigger muscles, Cooper had to bulk up, which was not easy. He increased his daily maintenance calorie while working out at the same time.

What is the perfect male body shape?

There is no one ideal male body type/shape. It is important that you love yourself irrespective of your body shape. However, for health reasons, it is best to groom a body with less unwanted fat.

Obesity is a complex disease that involves the accumulation of excess fat in the body. Obesity does not happen overnight but over time. That is why a conscious effort has to be made to groom the body so that fats don’t build up. 

Whether you are fantasising about 6-packs abs or bulky biceps, the most important is striking a balance between dieting and exercising because you need both. Keep fit by eating healthy meals and exercising regularly. 

Health benefits of keeping fit include:

  • It improves your mental performance and work productivity
  • It improves your skin health
  • It prevents muscle loss (atrophy)
  • It reduces the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases like dementia
  • It improves digestive processes
  • It decreases the risk of bone osteoporosis
  • It reduces depression, stress and anxiety

When visualising your perfect body type, think of your health first!